OnTheMarket's new CEO Jason Tebb has revealed that the majority agent-owned British property portal will be making a series of big changes to its image as well as its offering to consumers and services to agents. In an engaging interview with Property Academy founder Peter Knight, ex-estate agent Tebb discussed a number of issues around how the current #3 portal intends to challenge rivals Rightmove and Zoopla.
When asked about OnTheMarket's current position in the portal pyramid and what it would be doing to shake things up, Tebb admitted that his company needed "other reasons for consumers to come back to the site other than transacting". The underlying message was very much that now that OTM has much more solid financials and has shown to the industry that it is here for the long term, it now needs to go the extra mile to attract and keep the home-transacting public on its site.
It was put to the new CEO that where Rightmove marketing appeals to consumers emotions and Zoopla appeals to their logic with its 'smart search' slogan OnTheMarket needs a differentiator. According to Tebb, OTM will position itself as the home of serious homebuyers who are there to transact rather than just browse. There was an admission that OTM needs to do more to differentiate its offering for consumers and that many aspects of the portal will need to change for this to make an impact.
Until now the portal has been using the somewhat controversial tactic of its New & Exclusive feature to bring consumers to OnTheMarket.com. The feature, which sees agents list newly instructed properties on OTM for a limited period before uploading to Rightmove and Zoopla, is set to continue according to Tebb, who admitted that his firm needs to do a better job of communicating this feature to stakeholders and consumers.
An interesting question put to Tebb was around virtual tours, an issue around which the OnTheMarket CEO apparently has to tread carefully. While the company knows that the consumer preference is for more virtual viewings of properties, the fact that in theory the agent middle-man may be somewhat cut out by this trend is something that Tebb said he is looking really closely at with the idea being to bring real-time consumer-agent interaction onto the OTM platform so as not to disintermediate the process.
Among the other changes that Tebb alluded to during an honest and forthright interview was the need for his company to provide more data for both OnTheMarket's agent customers as well as consumers. Tebb said that the firm is working on both a commercial partnership as well as in house solutions to bring more third-party data into play for agents and house hunters on the site. Mergers and acquisitions were not ruled out either with Tebb pointing to the success of Glanty, a lettings software platform which OTM took up its option to fully purchase last month, as a success story for the company to follow.
OnTheMarket's development team may well have a lot of work on their plate as another interesting insight from the interview was that Tebb likes some of the features and products that have sprung up in the UK portal industry among the chasing pack of challengers. In the same way that Zoopla may well have taken some inspiration from challenger platform Twindig with its latest MyHome features, products and features from challengers that OnTheMarket bosses like have been added to the company's development team roadmap or are already in development according to the CEO.
With Zoopla bringing out its Silver Lake war-chest to up its marketing efforts and update its offering for consumers, Rightmove apparently offering discounts and newcomer Boomin looking to become a household name "in record time", OnTheMarket and Tebb have their work cut out to carve out a bigger piece of the portal profit pie in the UK and it will be interesting to see how the issues discussed in the interview pan out.